Protests and riots spread throughout the United States in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman. Firefighters are on the front lines as rioters set fires and even attack firefighters seeking to do their jobs.
In Richmond, Virginia, rioters blocked a fire truck from responding to a burning home. Protesters had intentionally set the fire at the home, and there was a child inside. In Philadelphia during a 24-hour period, the fire department responded to dozens of fires, including a two-alarm fire in North Philly after a weekend of looting.
In Sacramento, California, crews battled a fire that spread through the back of a business; while fighting the 5-alarm fire, 200 personnel worked to keep the flames away from small propane tanks and dozens of cars. When Grand Rapids, Michigan, firefighters arrived to put out a dumpster fire, someone threw a large firecracker or other explosive toward a firefighter as he jumped out of a truck. The explosive knocked him to the ground, and he clutched at his ears.
In Minneapolis, firefighters raced from one blaze to the next, often with police along for crowd control. One night during the protests, the Minneapolis Fire Department responded to 30 fire events including at least 16 structure fires. Department vehicles were damaged from thrown rocks and other projectiles. The level of the unrest prompted the International Association of Fire Fighters to issue a statement.
interrupted by violence
Throwing rocks, fireworks and directing violence toward fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs is never acceptable"
“Peaceful protests by our neighbors exercising their First Amendment rights across America are being interrupted by violence and unrest,” said Harold A. Schaitberger, IAFF General President. “In the middle of the challenges and turmoil, I am proud of our IAFF fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs who are once again proving their dedication to keeping their communities safe when they are needed most.”
“Throwing rocks, fireworks and directing violence toward firefighters, paramedics and EMTs is never acceptable,” he added. “As always, the safety of our members Is our top priority. So, it was with disappointment and outrage that I witness our members – who are integral to keeping everyone, including protesters, safe – attacked over the weekend.”
keeping People safe
Schaitberger citied incidents in Atlanta, Austin, Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Paul in which members were subjected to having bricks and large fireworks hurled their way, simply for doing their jobs. “This is inexcusable,” said Schaitberger.
“Firefighters will continue to respond when needed; it is their job and their calling,” said Schaitberger, who offered a plea on behalf of the 320,000 IAFF members: “Please allow your fire fighters on the frontlines to do that job, keeping everyone safe, without violence or incident.” He added: “To our members, stay safe and know that this IAFF has your back.”